A North Carolina couple was driving home from a church service when they were hit by a man driving in the wrong lane. The couple was severely injured and died the same day. Police are charging the driver with two counts of felony death by motor vehicle, impaired driving, and driving the wrong way on a dual-lane highway. The driver had previously been charged with driving while impaired three times before, but received only one conviction in 2001.
Facts like these lend to outrage as family and friends cope with the grief of the sudden and tragic nature of their loved ones’ deaths. The driver in this accident will be held accountable in criminal court, but may also be subject to liability in civil court for the wrongful deaths of the deceased couple. North Carolina’s wrongful death statute allows for the recovery of funeral expenses; pain and suffering of the decedent; medical expenses related to the injury that led to the death; society, companionship, guidance, and advice of the decedents to the person(s) entitled to damages; and the net income of the decedent.
Punitive damages may also be awarded in addition to the compensatory damages in a wrongful death action. In North Carolina, punitive damages exist to punish a defendant for egregiously wrongful acts and to deter the defendant and others from acting similarly in the future. In order to collect punitive damages in a wrongful death action, the estate of the deceased must first show the defendant is liable for compensatory damages and that an aggravating factor was present that was related to the award of compensatory damages. These aggravating factors include fraud, malice, and willful and wanton conduct.
In your typical personal injury case, the proof of the liability must meet the legal standard of preponderance of the evidence, where it is more likely than not that the injury occurred as a result of the other party’s negligence. The aggravating factors for punitive damages must be shown by clear and convincing evidence, a higher standard of proof. The evidence must be highly and substantially more probable to be true than not true.
A connection must be made between the impairment as the proximate cause of the accident. The condition must have caused the motorist to violate a rule of the road and to operate the vehicle in a manner that was the proximate cause of the collision. Thus, evidence of the impairment is essential in the pursuit of a wrongful death claim. It is important to gather evidence and testimony of witnesses as soon as possible after the accident so that this connection can be established.
The attorneys at Auger and Auger have litigated numerous personal injury actions and have aided several families in their time of need. Herbert Auger and Arlene Auger know that quick, effective action is needed following an accident to maximize compensation, and are available for a free consultation at . If you or a family member has been in a car accident and need assistance, call one of our North Carolina wrongful death and personal injury attorneys today.
More Blog Posts:
Drunk Driver Injures Four In Asheboro Accident, North Carolina Car Accident Attorney Blog, November 9, 2012
Boyfriend’s Alcohol Related Accident in Cumberland County Seriously Injures Passenger Girlfriend, North Carolina Car Accident Attorney Blog, June 19, 2012Posted In: Drunk Driver, Punitive Damages, Wrongful Death